10 Best Cruisers Of The 2000s
Jul 08, 2023
If you happen to be in the market for a cruiser from the early part of the 2000s, here are 10 that you might want to consider
Before the turn of the millennium, the automotive industry had had enough of the modern retro trend and wanted to change. Yet the same could not be said about motorcycle manufacturers still unsure about facing Y2K. It just seemed that speed was the main goal for most motorbike brands. Not only making bikes fast, but they also had to keep up-to-date with ever-changing emissions regulations. These factors are probably why you can clearly tell the difference between a bike born in the 2000s and one that came before it.
Within the cruiser segment of the market, with the growing popularity of motorcycle customizing reality shows, we also saw a major shift in design, as the old chrome-laden beasts of yesteryear were replaced by sleeker, more simplistic designs. We also saw the rebirth of an old forgotten brand that came back with a revised look that was, in my opinion, the perfect amalgamation of classic lines on a modern design. While other brands did their best to compete and try and take away the coveted king of cruiser moniker from the bar and shield brand.
From the first decade of the new millennium, there were a number of top-notch cruisers that up to now are still considered as the best of that era. If you happen to be in the market for a cruiser from that specific time frame, here are 10 that you might want to consider.
Related: 10 Iconic Motorcycles That Defined The 2000s
For a younger generation, Harley-Davidson’s V-Rod might be a more iconic bike of the early millennia, but it didn’t do as well in sales. The one innovative bike out of Milwaukee that happened to attract a large number of sales was actually the Softail Deuce or better known as the FXSTD. This modern-day cruiser had minor styling quirks that were different enough to satisfy newer riders, but not too farfetched from the classic Softail as to alienate Harley-Davidson enthusiasts.
Considered one of the most radically new Harley-Davidsons of that era, as stated in one of its early press releases, the FXSTD came with a new stretched-out tank, and enough chrome to make you be seen from miles away. Fitted with a rigidly mounted 4-stroke 45-degree twin-cam 1,450 cc 88B engine, Harley claimed 67 horsepower at 86 pound-feet of torque. Although not the best Harley had to offer, it did leave a big enough impact on the cruiser market.
Based on Honda’s Zodia concept shown at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show, the VTX 1800 was big red’s biggest and baddest motorbike ever produced. At the time, Honda’s VTX engine was the largest displacement V-twin in the world at 1795 cc which claimed 107 horsepower at 120 pound-feet of torque. Even though it was a cruiser, it was said to have a top speed of 125 mph.
The VTX was born due to Honda’s failed attempts in creating a V-twin that could compete with other cruisers on the market. And not only making a better engine, they just had to make it the biggest which helped define the term performance cruiser into the motorcyclist vocabulary. The modern design of earlier versions was everything one would expect from a cruiser set for the new millennium, but the later releases took a more neo-retro course to better attract the US market.
The Yamaha V-Star 650 was one of the best beginner cruiser bikes of the late ’90s, and to cater to riders that were ready for larger displacement, Yamaha had the V-Star 1100 at the ready. Trying hard to differentiate itself from the Virago XV1100, the V-star 1100 took several cues from its smaller counterpart, maintaining that classic cruiser style that riders had come to love when compared to the Virago’s more chopper esthetics.
Also known as the Dragstar 1100, this bike utilized a 1063cc, air-cooled, single-overhead-cam, two-valves-per-cylinder V-twin engine with dual carbs, wide-ratio five-speed transmission, and shaft final drive. This bike used a new suspension and frame, discarding the outboard dual shocks and stressed-member engine arrangement used in the Virago. Although performance-wise the V-star was outmatched by the competition, but it pretty much made up for it in its low price for a middle-weight cruiser.
Thanks to the release of Harley-Davidson’s V-Rod at the start of Y2K, many other manufacturers followed suit and produced their own power cruiser. Kawasaki’s answer to this new muscle bike segment was the Vulcan Mean Streak, which at first release had an upgraded engine taken from the Vulcan 1500 which later got bumped up to 1,552 cc when the VN 1600 Mean Streak was released in 2004.
Compared to other performance cruisers of that time, there is no denying that the Mean Streak was lacking, but what it lacked in power, it made up for in its handling and all-around badass looks. Its inverted front shocks not only gave it a meaner stance but made it much more maneuverable compared to the competition. Another big thing that Mean Streak had against the competition was that it was the most affordable.
Before Polaris chose to focus on breathing new life into Indian Motorcycles, there was a US-based motorcycle producer called Victory Motorcycles that was known for creating exciting cruisers. At a time when customized cruisers were gaining popularity amongst newer would-be riders, Victory was able to produce a factory bike that was a perfect combination of modern design, power, and customization. One of the brand's most popular and more affordable options was the Vegas, which continued to be produced up until it closed its doors in 2017.
The Victory Vegas was fitted with the brand's proprietary “Freedom” engine which was a 1,634 cc 50-degree V-Twin with a single over-head cam that claimed around 89 horsepower. Newer cruiser riders may find certain visual cues of the Vegas that resemble the Indian Scout, as they were both manufactured by Polaris.
The Suzuki Boulevard M109R or better known as the Suzuki Intruder 1800R in other parts of the world is Suzuki’s flagship V-Twin power cruiser. Recognized for its performance-oriented approach to the segment, and sheer road presence, the Boulevard M109R is still produced today. Although quite late to the muscle bike scene of the early 2000s, Suzuki didn’t release this bike until 2006, but quickly gained notice due to its unbridled performance.
This bike's 1783cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 54-degree, V-twin engine is said to produce 125 horsepower at 118 pound-feet of torque. Although the Boulevard M109R can gain some serious speed, Suzuki was able to make it maneuverable, making it not only fast in a straight line but also around corners.
Honda’s Shadow line of motorcycles was first introduced in the 80s to address the need to fill the American cruiser segment with something by the Japanese manufacturer. Due to tariff restrictions at that time, Honda’s 750cc displacement cruiser, the VT750C was shrunk down to a 700cc engine and became the VT700C to better suit regulations. Eventually big red brought the VT750DC Shadow stateside in 2001, which was better known as the Honda Shadow Spirit.
The updated Shadow Spirit was fitted with a 745cc four-stroke V-twin liquid-cooled engine that delivered an output of 43 horsepower and 44 pound-feet of torque. Some distinguishing features of the updated Shadow, were a narrower front tire on a 19-inch wheel, a slim front fender, and a bobbed rear fender. The Shadow Spirit was produced until 2003, skipping 2004, before resuming production in 2005 for North America until 2007.
Related: Why The Honda Shadow Is Underrated
The award for the largest displacement engine for a production motorcycle goes to the Triumph Rocket III. The beast was first released to the public in 2004 sporting a 2,294 cc engine. That’s pretty much like having a Honda Civic engine rumbling between your legs. To make sure this bike would be popular in the US, Triumph did extensive market research, and even consulted the amount of chrome to put on, so it would appeal to US riders. Apparently, Harley purists were too hard to sway as they still saw the V-Rod as an abomination back then.
One amazing thing about the Rocket III despite its massive engine, is that it still handled better than any Harley-Davidson could from that era. The massive engine produced 127 horsepower at 144 pound-feet of torque, was easily manageable, and didn’t threaten to knock you off the saddle when you twisted the throttle. Triumph has now updated this behemoth of a bike, but markets it more as a tourer instead of a cruiser
Before Polaris took over the Indian Motorcycle Company name, the Indian Motorcycle Company of America tried its hand at reviving the iconic brand that had long been extinct since the 50s. The 2001 Indian Scout was also dubbed the “Gilroy” Scout as the factory was based in Gilroy, California. The Gilroy Scout maintained the classic styling of the Indian Scout, albeit with updated mechanics to better serve on the open roads of today. The look is very different from Polaris’ iteration of the Indian Scout that came out in 2015.
The 2001 Indian Scout featured an air-cooled, four-stroke, 1442cc, V-Twin powerhouse paired with a five-speed manual transmission, and claimed to produce 75 horsepower at an estimated 80 pound-feet of torque. Standard features included a 41mm telescopic fork, an adjustable mono-shock at the rear, front and rear disc brakes, forward-mounted foot controls, and a tank-mounted instrumentation panel. The Indian Motorcycle Company of America seized production in 2003.
The Italians really have a knack for incorporating beauty into their engineering, and if you were looking for a sensual-looking cruiser, the Moto Guzzi California Stone is your answer. The basic, no-frills look that implied a classic attitude clearly defines the 2004 California Stone. This iconic big-bore Moto Guzzi Cruiser is free from all the bling and chrome other cruisers are known for, presented in a distinctive Italian beauty that is hard to describe.
Moto Guzzi’s iconic longitudinal mounted 90-degree V-Twin engine was a 1067 cc air-cooled engine fitted with a five-speed transmission that claimed 74 horsepower at 72 pound-feet of torque. Compared to the other cruisers on this list, the California Stone might be the smallest displacement, but what it lacked in overall performance, it truly made up for in its unbridled sex appeal.
Since owning his first motorcycle in 2008, Rinaldi has never looked back and has ridden all bikes, big and small. He is currently sporting a Yamaha MT25.